Earlier this week we presented the case of ‘Jennifer’, who joined the family business two years ago. The COO reported that the executive team was excited about Jennifer because she was “Just Like Her Dad”. We posed the question to you: Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Well, let’s take a closer look. What are the upsides of Jennifer being Just Like Dad?
*Dad’s approach is proven – why fix something that isn’t broken?
*Dad’s approach is familiar – the entire organization, as well as customers and suppliers, are already comfortable with this leadership style. Continuing in this vein will be minimally disruptive and comforting to the larger organization.
* Values and legacy – a great source of pride and competitive advantage – will be preserved into the next generation.
Can we list any downsides of Jennifer being Just Like Dad?
*If Jennifer assumes she is being invited to act with the same authority as her dad, she is headed for trouble. Making pronouncements (like Dad) or taking special privileges (like Dad) without clearly earning the right to do so, will surely lead to trouble.
*Jennifer is a unique individual with her own talents and abilities. Rather than aspiring to be a clone of dad, she should pursue her own leadership style and let her own light shine forth.
*Unlike Dad, who always operated as a sole entrepreneur, Jennifer is accountable to a large cast of characters. The ownership group is now larger, and multi-generational. The organization is more far flung with an ever-expanding group of stakeholders. Jennifer’s role as leader will require more consensus building and communication, and calls for a whole constellation of skills and efforts that were not required of the founder.
We are clearly looking at a paradox – two desirable approaches that appear to be in conflict. Our analysis tells us we need a both/and approach. How can Jennifer be ‘Just Like Her Dad,’ and, at the same time, be her own person?
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this exploration – and if you have any further thoughts about this dilemma, we’d love to hear from you!